Thursday, August 8, 2013

Column: It's The Gift That Counts

By Stephen Lautens

Calgary Sun - July 5, 2013

Recently the papers and social media was abuzz with a story about a bride in Hamilton, Ontario, who was unhappy with her wedding gift.
In case you missed it, a bride named Laura invited a guest named Kathy to settle a dispute on Facebook whether her wedding present was adequate. Apparently the gift basket Kathy gave to the happy couple to help celebrate their nuptials was deemed poor compensation for inviting them to share the blessed day.
We all get crummy gifts at our weddings. I just had my 23rd anniversary last weekend, and the story made me think of some of the weird gifts we received. I wont mention any of them because Im still related to some of the givers, but there were times you looked in the box and wondered what were they thinking?
In the spat between bride Laura and wedding guest Kathy, it really came down to cash. Laura called out Kathy as the only person who didnt give an envelope of cash and complained in a sarcastic thank you note that she lost out on $200 covering you and your dates plate.
Thats when the two took it to the streets of Facebook to let the wise and wonderful public weigh in on the spat.
Personally, Ive never seen a wedding as a money-making venture. Its supposed to be a celebration with those you love, but then Im hopelessly out of touch with the way the world works.
Maybe all the bridezilla shows have ruined it. Expectations of a lavish wedding that include a horse-drawn chariot, acrobatic elephants and a fifteen course dinner for 500 are fuelled by TV shows where weddings have become a competitive blood sport.
Everyone wants no, feels entitled to a wedding that would put a Roman Emperor to shame. And that costs money. There are cultures where its a point of family honour to drive yourself to the brink of bankruptcy to impress friends and family with a wedding party that lasts less than day.
Fortunately, my family (and even more fortunately, my wifes family) never felt the need to impress their way to the poorhouse.
My own wedding was nice. We set a modest budget, invited only people we really liked and made sure it was fun and memorable. No gimmicks or Game of Thrones themes. No hysterics about designer dresses or cakes that look like the Taj Mahal, only bigger.
As for cash, I really dont recall receiving denominations of note from the guests at our wedding. Im sure there were some cheques, but we didnt stay up on our wedding night with a calculator trying to balance the books.
I do know I still have the barbeque out back we received as a shower gift. Ive had to rebuild it five or six times and the wood shelves are starting to grow fungus, but my wife is sure that keeping it in operation is a good omen for our marriage. Plus it keeps me cooking dinner for the foreseeable future.
We got the china and silverware that gets used once a year at Christmas, and a couple of useful things for our new life together, but we didnt get married or throw a party to get presents, let alone a big wad of cash.
We also didnt invite people to our wedding thinking that wed break even, let alone show a profit. Frankly, the wedding was expected to be a loss. 
Luckily, 23 years later the marriage continues to pay dividends
© Stephen Lautens